Celebrating Día de Muertos With Our Makerspace: A Creative Tribute

Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and other parts of Latin America between October 31 and November 2.

The origins of Día de Muertos, a tradition celebrated in Mexico and other Latin American countries, are embraced by individuals across the United States and around the world and trace back approximately 3,000 years to the ancestral rituals honoring the deceased. The Aztecs and other Nahua communities saw death as part of life.

Today, families create ofrendas, or altars, to display inside their homes or at the cemetery. These ofrendas may include a table that holds family mementos reminding them of relatives, pets or even famous people.

Our makerspaces provide an excellent platform to craft unique remembrances for Día de Muertos. Here are some ways you can incorporate makerspace tools into your celebration:

Memory Lab

Our memory lab can be a valuable resource for commemorating Día de Muertos by digitally preserving rare and obsolete media.

Our Memory Lab includes equipment to digitize the following media:

  • Photos, negatives and photographic slides
  • VHS and VHS-C cassettes
  • Audio cassettes
  • 8mm and Super-8 film (no audio)
  • 5” floppy disks (DOS or Windows format only)
  • CD-R and DVD-R data discs

You can use our photo scanner to digitize your photographs, which you can print out or create a photo slideshow that you can display on your ofrenda. Atherton, Brisbane and Half Moon Bay libraries have a permanent Memory Lab that you can reserve.

Ofrendas are usually adorned with various items such as flowers, toys, pictures, drinks and food as gifts to their loved ones. These are carefully chosen to reflect the unique personality, interests and characteristics of their loved ones. These items not only hold great importance, but they also have historical significance.

Upon passing away, an individual was thought to embark on a voyage to Chicunamictlán, known as the Land of the Dead. This passage entailed traversing nine challenging levels, spanning several years before the person could ultimately reach Mictlán, the final resting place. In Nahua traditions dedicated to honoring the departed, typically observed in August, family members supplied food, water and tools to support the deceased in this difficult journey. This inspired the contemporary Day of the Dead practice in which people leave food or other offerings for their loved ones’ graves or set them out on makeshift altars called ofrendas in their homes.

You can use our makerspace tools to add special mementos to your ofrenda.


Add new components to your ofrendas with our Glowforge, a laser cutter and engraver, to create intricate designs such as papel picado, calaveras, also known as sugar skulls, personalized mementos and decorations.

Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane and Half Moon Bay each have a Glowforge available to the public.


Sewing Machines

Did you know you can check out a sewing machine at any of our San Mateo County Libraries? Using a sewing machine to craft Día de Muertos creations adds a unique and personalized touch to your tributes.

You can use our sewing machines to stitch long-lasting memories. Check out one of our machines to create a personalized altar tablecloth. You can use fabric that holds significance to your family, perhaps it’s a favorite color fabric or one that reminds you of your loved one.

3D Printing

You can use our 3D printers to craft unique and personalized creations for your ofrenda. One of the most iconic symbols of Día de Muertos is the calavera or skull. You can use our 3D printers to take this to the next level by designing and creating custom calaveras.

3D Printing also allows you to create miniature altars that you can customize to reflect the personality and interest of your departed loved one.

You can check out premade prints on Thingiverse, opens a new window or create your own using Tinkercard, opens a new window

Other Ways to Be a Maker

At San Mateo County Libraries, we believe that Everyone is a Maker! If you can’t make it to one of our makerspaces, try using one of our online resources to add to your ofrenda.

What about making some tissue paper flowers for your ofrenda? Cempasúchil flowers, known to the Aztecs as cempoaxotchil, meaning twenty flowers, are believed to lead souls from their burial place to their family homes. You can make some cempoaxotchil with Creativebug! Creativebug offers online video arts and crafts workshops and techniques. Learn how to paint, knit, crochet, sew, screenprint and more.

Día de Muertos is a celebration that beautifully merges tradition and innovation. While Día de Muertos remains firmly rooted in tradition, incorporating our makerspace tools can add a fresh and innovative perspective to your celebration. Everyone is a maker!

Join us for Día de Muertos Events

We've planned events honoring the celebration of Día de Muertos at several of our locations. Color and decorate your own skull masks, create tissue paper marigolds and check out the ofrenda at Foster City Library